Welcome to Part 3 of this interview with Dr Harville Hendrix, co-founder of Imago Relationship Therapy and internationally renowned bestselling author of “Getting the Love You Want.”

Here, Dr Hendrix starts out by talking about how neuroscience might impact who you are in relationships, too:

For the past two or three years I’ve been reading a lot on brain research, and the brain people seem to agree … that an integrated brain is the function of an integrated context, and that that is the neurophysiological basis for a sense of psychological wellbeing.

And no matter what you do to try to shape-up your psychological life, if you don’t have brain integration [and relationships] in the balance, you’re not going to feel good; you’re going to feel anxious.

So it’s really helped to know how specific you can be about that integration: ‘So that was a feeling you had. Can you think about it?’ So you move from limbic to cortical.

And if a person’s up here [in the cortical] all the time, then you ask, ‘Well, how do you feel as you say that?’

So the whole idea that feelings are primordial and primary and that you have to deal with feelings all the time is just wrong. It’s the integration of feeling and thought and behaviour in some sense of conversation that makes for a healthily balanced person…

And I think we’re also getting over what the systems theory people did when they discovered that the pathology of adolescents was the function of families. They went in to work solely with families and lost the self. We lost the self in the system. Self is the system, but it’s also a location interacting with a system…

What I’m trying to do in my writing is to highlight that it is neither the self nor the system; it’s the oscillation between the two. That’s the constant; the oscillation. Self changes, the system changes, but the oscillation is constant. Maybe that’s what the self is – the oscillation.

That’s fascinating. So that oscillation between the self and the system, between self and other, and also between thought and feeling,…

And between particle and wave…

…so you’re considering that movement itself as maybe where the self resides…

Well, is there a particle? No. Is there a wave? No. There’s a wave- particle relationship, and interaction, and what’s constant is the oscillation. So that begins to provide you with a process that’s not chaotic – if everything is moving, then that movement becomes the structure.

The oscillation between experience and words, thinking and feeling, self and other, self and system. That’s the constant. [Dr Hendrix evokes the symbol for infinity with his finger].

And when that oscillation is ruptured then you have two separate circles; and that’s neurosis or psychosis. But if you can restore the oscillation [and restore the movement between self and system] then you go back to a state of balance.

I’m wondering about social norms here as well, whether aspects of social norms might also impact on relationships and potentially even on the imagos* we construct. I’m thinking of the work that your wife and co-founder of Imago Therapy, Dr Helen LaKelly Hunt, also does regarding feminism and women’s rights, and whether perhaps something like patriarchy is potentially an invisible other in relationships. What are your thoughts?

I think that the content of the polarities in relationships changes, but that the oscillation doesn’t.

At the intersection between self and other, or self and culture, if new information enters that intersection, then your relationship of self to culture changes, and the relationship of culture to self also changes. That’s ultimately the evolutionary process. But if you don’t add in the new information, then you have a static society or a static relationship.

That’s why we say to couples that novelty is your best way to sustain the excitement. That doesn’t mean you have to go to Africa, for instance, just that you need to try walking around a different way today; go on the other side of the street.

So just bring something new in.

You have to have new input. The couples who do that, they’re never bored. Couples need a routine and they need novelty. If they don’t have routine, they have chaos. But if they only have routine, they have boredom and the relationship dies from lack of energy.

To me it seems like there’s something actually cosmic in that – it’s not like just a recommendation – it seems like that’s just the way the world works. That it’s the nature of being itself.

. . . . . . . . . .

So what do you think?

Did you find any ideas in this interview that you might want to try in your own relationships?

Were there things you agreed with, or things that clashed for you?

Feel free to share your thoughts here, so we can all learn from our relationship with each other, here online…

*According to Imago Relationship Therapy, each of us subconsciously builds an internal ‘imago’ or image of all the most positive and negative traits of our childhood caregivers. This image then forms a kind of template for the type of person we’re romantically drawn to, and who we can potentially find healing with in relationship.
This interview was initially published in The CAPA Quarterly, journal of the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Association of NSW, Australia.
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.